The University of Melbourne has saved over 4500 hours of work by automating much of its emergency financial aid program introduced to support students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 4000 students have successfully applied for grants so far, which were introduced when remote work was fast becoming the norm and international travel bans placed sudden and severe limitations on resourcing capacity.
A number of different grants are available under the scheme, including a dedicated fund for students to upgrade their IT equipment if they can prove their current setup isn’t adequate for the sudden shift to online learning.
After a scoping meeting on Zoom, the university’s robotic process automation (RPA) team came with a process for the Scholarships & Bursaries division to release payments to students faster and more frequently.
The RPA team had already automated several routine processes at the university, limiting the risks and errors made in repetitive tasks while freeing up staff to focus on more complicated, higher-value jobs.
It created software bots with Automation Anywhere, taking two days to combine existing tooling with new elements required to complete the bot.
Tools including Microsoft SQL were used to feed information to the different bots and link them together, with the compute workload automatically allocated to different machines based on their capacity and availability.
Coupled with the quick build time and turnaround on application processing, the new bot pays out the emergency grants more regularly - up to three times a week compared to once every fortnight as was the case before COVID-19.
It also automatically validates students’ bank details, notifying them if incorrect details are supplied and releasing the funds when the correct information is confirmed.
"The bot has been a godsend for the scholarships office, drastically reducing our workload and ensuring students get paid their COVID-19 grants in a much quicker time frame then we would otherwise be able to do,” the University said.